8 Technological Advances in Paving
Existing technologies that have and are radically changing the world of asphalt paving
Paving, like many construction-related industries, is awash in new developments. Many of the developments are future-oriented. They are often in-development, or newly contrived, or only exist on paper. What about the existing technologies that have made paving better, more cost-effective, and more efficient? As demands for paved roadways has gone up, paving contractors have innovated to meet those demands.
It’s all in the mix
In past years, asphalt was mined as small rocks out of the Earth. These small rocks make up the majority of asphalt pavement, and they are called aggregate. Aggregate is a mix of pebbles, rocks, and other small particles held together by a binder. The binder is usually a petroleum product that essentially glues everything together, making pavement one solid piece.
Previously, it was all made from new materials. This process is not the most efficient. It had to be collected, processed, and transported to where the new pavement would be laid. New advances in paving mix had made the whole process far more efficient.
Before, simple vanilla pavement was used. Nowadays, the vast majority of pavement used on roads is recycled material. This solves several problems in one go. First, old roads don’t have to be discarded and go to waste. Second of all, the collection and re-pulverization of the pavement can be done closer to where the new pavement will be laid, saving transportation time and cost. Finally, it is much more environmentally friendly to recycle than to create new materials all the time.
Improved durability asphalt mix
Asphalt mix used to be a one-size fits all solution. Now, thanks to in-depth studies about pavement use, wear, and environmental factors, asphalt mix is specialized. Mixes are designed to withstand heavy equipment use, use by numerous vehicles, and environmental changes. Mixes such as Superpave provide excellent all-around performance in various situations. You can read more about Superpave and its benefits as well as how it’s made here.
Warm mix asphalt
Also known as WMA, warm mix asphalt has become one of the most popular types of mix. WMA lets the asphalt achieve viscosity at lower temperatures. This allows mixing and compaction without extremely high temperatures. It may seem minor, but it comes with a whole list of benefits. WMA improvements include:
- Reduction in energy use.
- Reduction in smoke created and exposed to workers, people nearby, and the environment.
- Lower fuel usage.
- The ability to pave in cooler weather.
- Ability to perform deep patches for repairs.
- The mix can be hauled longer and still retain its ability to be used.
Engineering is such an open term, it could refer to just about anything. The mix mentioned above is engineered right? Well, in this sense, we mean environmental and precision engineering improvements.
Nano-engineered materials have enabled soil to be more stable and provide better dust control. Geocells are a type of structure created by welding polyethylene which are filled with aggregate. These cells are a great way of confining soil and bearing loads. The bottom-most layer of a paved surface is called subgrade. Subgrade used to be made simply from compacted soil. It is one of the biggest problems when it comes to asphalt repairs. Damaged earth beneath the asphalt is nearly impossible to fix without tearing up the entire pavement. With geocells and better engineered subgrades, the ground beneath the asphalt can last longer. New additives are also used with are environmentally-friendly (biodegradable), safe, and quick to apply. They can be used as asphalt subgrade and in areas with unpaved roads to control dust.
The materials used in paving vary in size greatly. The tiniest aggregates are measured in micrometers while huge support beams and pillars can be meters in length. The current industry trend is to use nanotechnology, microscopy, molecular dynamics, and atomic force to figure out how these interact. The goal is to find out how these materials interact on an atomic and molecular level so that they form stronger bonds and last longer.
One of the benefits of precision engineering in asphalt is the advent of self-healing pavement. This is an asphalt which uses micropolymers that form bonds withing the cracks that develop in paving. Small fibers will release sealants that then fill the cracks, re-bonding the broken asphalt.
Modern construction methods
New and high tech construction methods are making asphalt-laying more efficient, last longer, and better over all.
Thermal imaging and mapping
This technology is the use of GPS and infrared to map out the temperatures of where asphalt is being laid. This helps them improve future asphalt laying by addressing bad temperature areas. In the future, they can figure out how to handle paving better and do so more efficiently. It also helps the paving contractors lay better asphalt as it is happening.
Intelligent compaction is the use of vibrating rollers with a sensor system, feedback control, GPS, and a computer reporting system. Intelligent compaction technologies improve asphalt compaction in real time, and they help provide data for better analysis in the future. These devices are also capable of measuring the existing compaction on ground where asphalt will be laid. They can also measure compaction of asphalt to be repaired. It’s a major improvement. One of the biggest problems in the past was knowing the compaction levels of the places asphalt was to be set. This again provides real-time improvements in the process of laying and repairing asphalt for contractors.
Get the best paving you can
Reliable Paving has been in this business for over 35 years. We know the newest and most efficient ways to get roads, parking lots, and highways paved, and the tried and true methods. If you need asphalt laid, repaired, assessed for ADA compliance, seal coated, or repainted, we’ve certainly got you covered. Contact us today to get a free quote and find out what we can do for you.